This might be an odd parenting tip but I want to speak about smoking. It is a parenting issue because most smokers start as children, and half of those who do will die from it. Around the world about 100,000 children will have their first cigarette today, and about 60,000 others will transition from occasional smokers to every day smokers. That’s children doing something that will kill most of them that do it.

Mum and dad and all my siblings were smokers, and my parents and three brothers are now dead and I am sure nicotine robbed them of many years. I remember when I was fifteen rolling a cigarette in front my mother, and lighting it. My dear Mum said, “Don’t do that”, walked across and took it from me, and smoked it herself. I am very reluctant to say anything negative about my late dear mum who did so much right but I’d have to say that her message was right but the example did make it a pretty ineffective anti-smoking measure.

First tip – it is so hard to give a message to our kids about anything if we don’t consistently model the message. Not impossible but much harder. I am so reluctant to load guilt on you because I was a smoker myself for many years and I know how hard it is. I tried and tried to quit – nearly half of all smokers try to quit every year – and I had plenty of guilt and knowledge but what finally did it was love: standing next to my Dad’s bed as he was dying from cancer I decided to quit out of love, to honour him, and I haven’t had a single puff for 30 years.

Whether you are a smoker or not, could I urge you to add lots and lots of love to every rule you make about smoking for your kids, to every message you give them about nicotine. “Kids, I love you far too much to let you do this. When you harm yourself, you harm me!” It takes years for health warnings to soak into their growing brain, but a parent’s love bypasses the brain and goes straight to their heart.

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John Cowan

Writer, speaker and broadcaster, John Cowan shares his insight and opinions about the latest in parenting and family news in New Zealand. Hear John speak on radio stations every week throughout the country and regularly on national TV.  Follow @JohnCowanNZ on Twitter

1 Comment

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    Isn’t it funny, neither of my parents smoked while my siblings and I were growing up, yet we all (two brothers and one sister) started smoking as teenagers in the 50’s , 60’s and 70’s.
    As was the norm, we all smoked in the house and in front of our children, yet neither of my two girls ever smoked, neither did the children of my two brothers.
    In contrast, all three daughters of my sister, now in their 40’s and 50’s, and my sister (at 80 years of age!) still smoke to this day.
    What I’m trying to say is that it is impossible to predict what will happen if we do this or do that as parents. All I can say is that I hope the (financial) cost of smoking nowadays will put young people off, as it did me, finally.

    Now aged 75 and after 50 plus years of smoking and many, many failed attempts of giving up, I’m happy to say that I have been smoke-free for 2 and a half years now, thanks to the availability of e-cigarettes!
    I am so upset to hear in the news that the Ministry of Health in its wisdom, has decided not to support the legalisation of e-cigarettes because “There’s not enough evidence that e-cigarettes are an effective tool in helping people quit smoking” They also said that the fact that e-cigs come in flavours like chocolate and strawberry it may encourage kids to take up tobacco smoking. A typical statement from a non-smoker; there has never been a chocolate or strawberry flavoured cigarette, so, apart from the cost difference, the comparative bland taste of a tobacco cigarette will hardly be an enticement.

    In my teenage days, it was peer-pressure that started me and others, I dare say, nothing much has changed. If there’s anything parents can do is to try and encourage their children to choose non-smoking friends!